Our Guide to the 54th San Francisco International Film Festival

Well, the big day is finally upon us.  With tonight’s (4/21) opening of Mike Mills’ Beginners SFIFF54 officially kicks off its cinemarathon of USA and World Premiers-a-plenty.  Hopefully you’ve already picked up your movie guide or downloaded one from the festival’s official website.  As helpful as that guide may be in its brief synopsis’ of what’s playing unfortunately it still won’t let you know which films are utter crap and which ones you should drop everything and see immediately.  Don’t worry film fans, we’re here to help.  Regardless of what intriguing adjectives are used in the schedule’s descriptions we at Filmbalaya will set the record straight – or at least give our own subjective spin on what’s playing.


Cave of Forgotten Dreams – “Werner Herzog takes us through one of the most remarkable monuments of humanity’s past in this fantastic film.” – Tom

Meek’s Cuttoff – “This is not a glorified western with shootouts and outlaws, it’s about getting from point A to point B in an unknown and unforgiving landscape.” – Nick

The Selling – “A genuinely funny and intelligently written horror comedy with a nice amount of suspense.” – Tom

The Troll Hunter – “An intelligent and witty movie that restored my confidence in the “shaky cam” horror genre.” – Nick

The Autobiography of Nicolae Ceausescu – “A singularly unique film showing the reflections of Romania’s dictator during his quick trial at the end of the Romanian Revolution by means of stock footage and added sound.” – Tom

A Cat in Paris – “Guns, hand-to-hand combat, references to “Goodfellas” and “Reservoir Dogs”, protagonists who are thieves and liars, awkwardly drawn female breasts, and to top it off, it’s suitable for children” – Adam

The City Below – “Uninhibited power, greed and passion are just as much of a driving force as the protagonists that inhabit them.” – Adam

Foreign Parts – “The power of this film lies in the casual way in which it follows its humans and their surroundings.” – Adam

The Joy – “If you’re a fan of modern fairy tales or coming of age stories make sure to check this out.” – Nick

The Mill and The Cross – “Lech Majewski’s recreation of the works of Pieter Bruegel placed into the dimensions of film, allowing them to tell the story of the Spanish oppression of the Flemish people in the 16th century. Visually amazing” – Tom

The Pipe – “This film’s strength lies in its ability to evoke anger from its viewer even though the viewer is fully aware they will never hear from the opposition – not an easy thing to do.” – Adam

Position Among The Stars – “Breathtaking cinematography and long tracking shots resemble something one would find in say a Danny Boyle film… its exploration of family dynamics, religion, materialism and the meaning of life are just as, if not more, entertaining.” – Adam

Le Quattro Volte – “A meditative, beautifully simple journey through time in the Italian countryside of Calabria.” – Tom

Terri – “Terri is a unique film to grace the “coming of age” genre, if it may so be called.” – Tom

13 Assassins – “Homage to Kurosawa (complete with a Toshiro Mifune-based character and loving shots of rain) with his modern, ultraviolent twist, an enjoyable period piece with a tried and true jidaigeki formula” – Tom

Tilva Rosh – “Immediate comparisons to Larry Clark‘s Kids and MTV’s Jackass spring to mind while watching Nikola Lezaic‘s coming-of-age debut of youth in turmoil set against Bor, an industrial ghost town in Serbia.” – Adam

Ulysses – “A masterwork of depth and complexity in minimalism and stark realism.” – Tom

The Balld of Genesis and Lady Jaye – “A cinematic ballad – or ode if you will – on pioneering industrial musician, Genesis, her loving involvement with Lady Jaye, and their no-holds-barred pandrogynous relationship” – Adam

Cinema Komunisto – “A history lesson on the power and importance the role of cinema can truly play in unifying a nation.” – Adam

End Of Animal – “End of Animal is not a mystery that will go over well with audiences who enjoy more conventional narratives.”

The Future – “Fans of painfully funny moments and talking cats will enjoy this film.” – Nick

Hahaha – “The film is definitely dialog heavy and might not appeal to everyone, but those  who can accept its slow pace and quirky humor will be in for a treat.” – Nick

Hands Up – “While the heart of this film is the bond between children, it also sheds light on issues of illegal immigration and the inhumane ways it is sometimes handled.” – Nick

Hot Coffee – “Saladoff’s documentary is one of those films that will cause you to take a stance on issues you normally wouldn’t give the time of day to regardless of its unapologetic one-sided bias.” – Adam

I’m Glad My Mother Is Alive – “Comparisons to Francois Truffaut’s 400 Blows immediately spring to mind, especially from the troubled youth protagonist angle, but mostly due to the expert use of the handheld (not a shaky-cam, there’s a huge difference) used to frame much of the film.” – Adam

Let The Wind Carry Me – “a glimpse into the mind of the extraordinarily talented visual master Mark Lee Ping-bin and the hardships that come with dedicating himself to his profession as a cinematographer.” – Adam

Living on Love Alone – “I can see many people identifying with this reckless and passionate story of not fitting in to the “normal” way of life.” – Nick

Nostalgia For The Light – “Those able to sit through the overindulgence of metaphors in Guzman‘s latest meditative documentary on secrets hidden both amongst the cosmos and above and below the Earth’s surface will be rewarded with a pristine HD print of breathtaking cinematography” – Adam

The Salesman – “Director and writer Sébastien Pilote takes a go at dispelling those numerous stereotypes associated with cars salesmen by making one his main character.” – Adam

Something Ventured – “Definitely worth seeing, especially if you live in the Bay Area and want to know about California’s second gold rush.” – Nick

Stake Land – “Plenty of scares and gore to entertain the zombie crowd.” – Nick

Year Without A Summer – “Long takes, impressive low-lighting, not for the impatient.” – Tom

Beginners – “An unabashed half comedy half drama affair that leaps out of the gate seamlessly intertwining the two, only to eventually – and awkwardly – shift tones and pull the funny-bone woven rug out from under our feet.” – Adam

The Colors of The Mountain – “Were it not for a certain farm animal unexpectedly blowing up midway through the film I wouldn’t have stayed for the far-reaching attempts at eliciting artificial poignancy in the end.” – Adam

The Last Buffalo Hunt – “For all those who enjoy nothing more than seeing animals slaughtered and making fun of white racist Americans, you might get something a tad bit more out of The Last Buffalo Hunt than I did.” – Adam

On Tour – “If you are looking for Vegas burlesque with tiny girls in g strings grinding in school girl uniforms, this is not your movie.  These women are curvaceous beautiful performers dominating their audience with dance, music, a little comedy and a lot of sexual energy.” – Caly

The Whistleblower – “Generic suspense ensues courtesy of a generic sex trafficking plot, and one do-gooder who must overcome insurmountable made-for-television movie odds.” – Adam


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Categories: San Francisco International Film Festival

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